Tag Archives Feminism

Q&A with Alex Jackson, Branding Genius & Advocate for Racial Equality in the Influencer World

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Media Girls LA Founder Alex Jackson. Photo Credits: https://enspiremag.com/2021/03/media-girls-la-founder-alex-jackson-on-marketing-and-wage-differences/

On-camera media personality, SHEEN Correspondent, and founder of Media Girls LA, Alex Jackson is a pioneer of strategic marketing and a champion of equal representation in the influencer world. Fusing her talent for and experiences in event curation, influencer branding and marketing, and publicity, she founded her own agency, Media Girls LA, in 2018 to help connect influencers with established brands across the country. As her monthly flow of brand deals became increasingly prolific, she learned that her white counterparts were paid significantly higher. The stark pay gap between Black and white content creators with the same following was jarring, and she committed to focusing her work on promoting and advising influencers of color. When the pandemic hit, both brands and content creators experienced insurmountable barriers, which created few opportunities for promotions and sponsorships. Rather than giving up, however, Jackson broadened her approach to strategic brand deals to include a more diverse array of influencers and tactics. With a rapidly expanding network, ultimately, in 2020, she closed the highest number of brand deals since the launch of her company, securing $100 thousand in brand deals for Black content creators. Working with influencers such as Mehgan James, Romeo Miller, Master P, and Miracle Watts, Jackson hopes to continue expanding her network and advocating for equal pay and representation for Black influencers. In this interview, Jackson shares more about the genesis of and mission behind her company, her aspirations moving forward, and the lasting impact of her work on racial equality in the media. 

Please tell us about your career path, leading up to the launch of your company, Media Girls LA. What inspired you to found this company?

Most people don’t know the planning of MGL initially started with 4 ladies working within the media industry.  The initial idea of the organization spawned from a thought on the Soul Train Awards’ red carpet, where we decided to host our first event as a women’s media brunch. What can I say, the strong survive. But seriously, although the event was a success, it was clear the collaboration was not going to work, so after the first event I continued MGL in 2018 as a solo endeavor.

Beauty Meetup with Macy’s. Photo Credits: https://www.mediagirlsla.com/gallery

How did the pandemic affect your work and change the trajectory of your career?

At the beginning of the pandemic, it was very rocky being that all my speaking engagements were canceled, along with my MGL scheduled events. In addition, I was in the midst of launching my t-shirt business, and my media junkets out of town were all placed on pause, as well as all the branding collaborations engagements I had solidified for the upcoming months. Literally, everything I do to make money was at a complete halt, but what’s crazy, I still wasn’t worried. I knew God was going to see me through it; I didn’t know how, but I knew it would be okay. That’s when I went in complete hustle mode. I started to make and sell  E-books, webinar replays, and virtual events and come up with different strategic plans to broaden my reach when it came to influencers and brands.

What is your central goal as a content creator, and how do you work to make space for more influencers of color in the media?

Once finding out that Caucasians influencers were making more money in the industry, my mission has been solely to make sure they get the money they deserve. My primary goal started with me recruiting influencers that look like me and that I knew had  great content to help them run up a bag! I’m very picky as to who I take on my roster now compared to the past. I teach them how they should stand their ground on their pay request and help them with understanding how much they should be charging for their services as well.

Compton’s School District Girl Empowerment Symposium. Photo Credits: https://www.mediagirlsla.com/gallery

What was the biggest challenge you encountered in obtaining sponsorships and brand partnerships? 

I would say for brand partnerships, it has been finding the contacts, and sponsorships would probably be about the same. Either way, I don’t give up easily and quitting is not an option. As I have learned to do more, I’ve become creative in my approach to discovering different ways to find contacts.

In addition to racial equity and representation, what are some of the central issues you see in influencer culture? In your experience, how has the influencer business impacted body image and mental health among millennials? 

It’s definitely a wage gap between races without a doubt, and everyone knows it. It’s really unfair especially being that in a lot of instances those black influencers have more engagement and followers. I have had to give a few pep talks to my content creators when some of them have felt like giving up on YouTube because they feel like they play favorites. It discourages them and leads them to think their content isn’t good enough. A lot of influencers I’m friends with feel like they need to have surgery to keep up their looks, or women who want to be influencers feel like they need surgery to be noticed as an influencer, but none of that is true at all.

Alex Jackson, Champion of Equality for Black Influencers. Photo Credits: https://enspiremag.com/2021/03/media-girls-la-founder-alex-jackson-on-marketing-and-wage-differences/

What are some ways media consumers can contribute to a more equitable and healthy space in the media industry? 

Just like any other industry, we have to let it be known that this behavior exists. For many people,  all this is still new, although it has been around for over a decade. The more consumers understand the dynamics behind what we do and the work involved, they will be able to contribute on a great scale toward equitable measures. In the mean, influencers and content creators need to shed light on this issue to make consumers aware. 

What do you think will be the lasting impact of your work, even in the post-covid era? What’s next for you? 

I think the lasting impact of my work will be the footprints that I have left for those who are interested in getting into the industry. The foundational vision of MGL derived from being a beacon to help others starting out in the business, and it has continued to be our foundation to this day. 

I plan on doing in-person events post-COVD to teach influencers how to make a bag from social media. I’m also releasing two E-books, “How To Make A Bag From The Gram,” and one about how to obtain sponsorships for events, as well as building my tee shirt business “Statement  Tees” @statementtees_    . Media Girls LA is already on track to supersede our number of brand deals from last year and to increase our network. 

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Photo Credit: EnspireMag,  Media Girls LA

Q&A with Malia Mills: On Inclusivity, Innovation, and Empowerment in Women’s Swimwear

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Designer and Founder of Eponymous Label, Malia Mills. Photo credits: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/malia-mills-swimwear-inspiration-guide/all

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, a mecca for swim and beachwear, Malia Mills graduated from Cornell University where she was initially enrolled in Design & Environmental Awareness. After spending a semester at La Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne in Paris, she discovered that her passion was fashion, and more specifically, swimwear design. She finished her undergraduate degree with a major in the Department of Textiles & Apparel, known today as the Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design (FSAD). In 1991, after working in San Francisco as an assistant designer for Jessica McClintock, Mills moved to New York City, where she soon founded her eponymous swimwear label. A waitress at the Odeon — a trendy downtown hotspot — by day, and a designer by night, Mills turned her apartment into a studio and production center, where she cut and sewed swimwear samples with the fit of lingerie. Malia Mills swimwear, which celebrates body inclusivity and empowerment with its attention to fit, comfort and high-fashion aesthetic, pioneered an untapped market and galvanized industry attention, and has since expanded to cover-ups, draped dresses and rompers, blouses and trousers, in addition to swimwear. Within just a few years, Malia Mill swimwear was available through wholesale distribution at over 125 specialty stores across the globe, from Barneys New York and Neiman Marcus to Aman Resorts. From Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar to The New York Times and Women’s Wear Daily, Malia Mills has been featured in numerous publications and is now sold exclusively at three Malia Mills in New and four in California. Renowned for its edgy, luxurious styles, local, women-focused production and “Love Thy Differences” as the brand motto, Malia Mills has opened an inspiring dialogue on inclusivity and fit innovation in swimwear. 

I was so thrilled to chat with Malia, an alumna of my program at Cornell, about her cutting-edge label and lasting impact on the swimwear industry. 

How did you first get into swimwear? 

When I was at Cornell, I did a project on swim during spring break. I grew up in Hawaii so swimwear had always been a huge part of my life. A bikini was a huge right of passage. It’s something I wore when I wanted to feel like a grown up. Upon graduating, my friend and roommate from college was working at Sports Illustrated — she remembered the project I did in school and said I should design some swimsuits for the magazine. That was really the impetus for my first collection. 

 

Malia Mills “Charlize Top.” Available at: https://www.maliamills.com/collections/all-swimwear/products/charlize-top

Where did the idea for bra-sized swimwear come to fruition?

I was in San Francisco at the time when my friend called — I left my job that day, and on my way home, I went to every store that sold swimwear. 8000 light bulbs went off. The same top and bottom on one hanger seemed so bizarre to me. It seemed odd that lingerie was so fit-specific, but in the swim department everything was one size. When I told people I was making swimwear, the first thing everyone would say is “Ugh, I hate swimwear, I’m too fat, I need to lose weight,” but really swimwear is about getting out there with your friends, celebrating a day off, having fun. Swimwear is transformative, it’s sunshine, it’s water, it’s freedom — but that’s not what I was hearing when I heard people talking about swimwear. That was really the inspiration for me to make swimwear that made women feel liberated out there without many clothes.

 

Please tell us a little bit about the process behind starting your own company. How did you build your initial collection into a whole business?

I was working out of my apartment, making patterns and sewing samples, and was working as a waitress at night. I found factories in New Jersey, where I still produce today. It was a source of inspiration for me to really go out into the marketplace, talk to factories, build connections with the families behind the production. We work with domestic family-run factories: these family run factories are truly incredible places, as well as a tremendous source of pride.

Malia Mills Body Revolution. Photo Credits: maliamills.com

We are so lucky to have this amazing team and to go on this extraordinary journey together.

it’s been very special to grow up with them. Parents pass their factories down to their kids, or sometimes the parents are still running the factories after their kids grow up. It’s really incredible to grow up with this amazing family dynamic — there’s such a commitment to expertise and artistry and so much love goes into their work. There are negative connotations associated with the word factory in the media today, but factories come in all shapes and sizes, and these family run factories are truly incredible places. What we’re making is what we call 99 hands. There are so many people involved, from the screenprinter, to the grater, to the cutter, to the UPS guys. You really rely on an orchestra of people to meet deadlines and get garments to consumers. We are so lucky to have this amazing team we went on a journey together

Have you seen change over the course of your career when it comes to women in the workplace? 

I do, change is always happening. Sometimes it’s three steps forward and eighteen steps back, but it’s change nonetheless. And sometimes the steps backwards encourage us to double down on what we’re driving towards. It’s the fuel that makes us work even harder to initiate change. 

Malia Mills “Summer of Love” bottom. Available at https://www.maliamills.com/products/pant-size-swimwear-bottom-summer-of-love

Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process as a designer? 

My design process is very chaotic. When you’re running a small business, you’re wearing many hats, constantly jumping between your left brain and your right brain, between critical and creative thinking. My professor, taught me that design is fundamentally about all the senses we have. I feel very lucky to have been introduced to her. I try to use all five of my senses all day so that I can get in tune with how I feel. Design is much more than how the object will look — it’s so multidimensional, and when you hone your senses, you have this ability to find these free moments where all these different ideas you’ve had over time come together. 

How do you hone your senses? 

When I want to design a new swimsuit top, I don’t necessarily sketch or drape it every time. My process is a combination of so many little things and experiences. Design is a process: you’ll go down some roads and come to a dead end very quickly. For me, design involves reading a lot and writing a lot and trying to listen and see things. For example, I met one designer who always turns her garments backwards, and that informs a new understanding of its comfort, design idea, concept, how it could be better. Using all your senses means you turn things inside out, upside down. Design is not just a linear process. It’s messy and complicated, and you need to be unafraid to be wrong in order to get it right. 

What are your defining values when it comes to craftsmanship and production? Could you tell us about your

Course of Trade trains newcomers at Malia Mills. Photo credits: https://wwd.com/business-news/markets/course-of-trade-trains-newcomers-in-industrial-apparel-sewing-1202778480/

Course of Trade nonprofit initiatives? 

We’ve been incredibly fortunate throughout our journey, so we feel that it’s important to give back as much as we can. It’s not just money — it’s also time and expertise and all these different factors, so over the years we’ve been focused on various mostly women-focused initiatives, from Girls Inc. to supporting local chapters of school events. It’s been very joyous to participate in small but powerful ways. About five years ago, our Production Director Libby, who is also a Cornellian, came to us and said she wanted to start a factory — we had just moved to BK and had an incredible new space. She founded Course of Trade, which is dedicated to teaching women in New York how to sew. We produced and sold bags, which paid for the scholarships of the next students down the line. It’s been an amazing experience to empower our students economically, and we are grateful to have a teammate like Libby who tells us what she wanted to do and how we could make it happen. 

What other prominent gaps in the swimwear industry do you hope to tackle?

Guiding brand mantra: “Love thy Differences.” Photo credits: maliamills.com

I believe it is important to use your senses to get a feel for everything out there and address them as you experience them — to listen to and understand other people’s experiences. The swimwear industry has tremendous opportunities to think about how we define sustainability — it goes far beyond the types of textiles you use. The industry is an incredible tapestry of people with an incredibly diverse skill set and there needs to be the utmost respect for every person along the way. The industry is often presented as the designer or the brand and then the business as a separate entity, which is a disrespectful way of looking at it. With all the transparency available nowadays, it is important to see that you can’t create a garment without the contributions of everyone. You can’t have a designer without a salesperson in a retail location who creates a warm and inviting place for the garments, or all the hands creating each piece. It’s time for people to see the humanity in fashion — it’s a force that is really coming to light these days. By virtue of that, we have a lot of great creative minds coming to the surface with opportunities to express themselves. This will continue to yield more movements in how a swimsuit should feel, how it should look, why we should invest in it. The notion of sustainability is actually a catch-all because it’s a little bit shoehorned into a circular idea, but it’s deeper and broader: understanding the complexity and depth of that alone will yield not just new businesses but also some very interesting roads to travel down in the future. 

Read more fashion articles at Clichemag.com

Photo Credit: All New American, Oprah, Malia Mills, WWD

From Le Smoking to Pantsuit Nation: The Legacy of the Power Suit

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Gabriela Hearst Spring 2019 Ready-to-Wear Pantsuit at NYFW. Photo credits: https://www.tag-walk.com/en/look/124918

In September, 2018, Grabriela Hearst’s lux pantsuit was greeted with an uproar of applause during her Spring 2019 Ready-to-Wear NYFW presentation. Sleek, architectural, and minimal, yet elevated, the silk ensemble pays homage to the notion of the “feminine mode” in everyday reality. It pairs a single-breasted blazer with tailored trousers, straddling the line between everyday workwear and high-end luxury. In fact, just one out of many that took the runway by storm these past two years, the pantsuit has become one of the most powerful trends of the decade.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement and a cultural shift towards greater female representation in the political realm, a resurgence in feminist tropes have become ubiquitous in the fashion industry. The “power suit,”in particular, heralded by Harper’s BAZAAR as a staple trend of the year, has become a pervasive motif for women’s empowerment in both the workplace and popular culture. It has trickled across various consumer demographics and price points, a staple on both the red carpet and in the millennial closet. 

While the pantsuit might seem like an established garment category today, it was practically perceived as a crime just one century ago. Mere pants did not emerge as a trend for women until the early 1900s, when French designer Paul Poiret designed womenswear pants that were inspired by a harem costume. Few women in Europe and the US wore them, however, as they were viewed as outrageous and inappropriate. In Puerto Rico in 1919, social labor organizer Luisa Capetillo was even sent to jail for being the first woman to wear pants in public. As Marjorie Jolles, a women’s studies professor at Roosevelt University, articulated, “It was just top-to-bottom sex. And that, I think, can be traced to the fact that for at least some of our recent Western history, a divided crotch—so pants as opposed separately encased in fabric—was thought to be the height of immodesty.”

Following the ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920, women began to harness new agency in not just the political realm but also the social sphere. As able-bodied men left for World War I, women took their places in the workforce, which offered new opportunities in terms of dress. In 1918, for instance, Levi Strauss introduced the “Freedom-Alls,” a women’s trouser-style cotton tunic over balloon pants. Similarly, in the luxury sector, French couturier Coco Chanel launched her 1923 “signature suit,” a two-piece set inspired by menswear and designed for post-war women to enter the workforce. A symbol for women’s growing agency in the workplace, the bottoms consisted of a knee-length skirt instead of pants but laid the groundwork for the modern pantsuit.

As the film scene skyrocketed in the 1940s, many Hollywood stars — most notably, Audrey Hepburn — began to adopt fitted tuxedo-esque jackets with wide-leg trousers. Menswear-inspired apparel did not become ubiquitous in the womenswear market until World War II, however, when the percentage of women in the workplace rose from 27% to 37%. Levi’s womenswear finally gained consumer appeal, and women’s workwear began to emerge as a segment of the industry.

Le Smoking, 1967. Photo credits: https://www.wmagazine.com/gallery/yves-saint-laurent-le-smoking-couture/

In the 1960s, a decade of great political upheaval and particularly huge strides in women’s rights, French designer Yves Saint Laurent pioneered the modern day pantsuit in 1966. Known as Le Smoking, this first tuxedo-suit for women consisted of a dinner jacket, trousers, a white shirt, a black bowtie, and a cummerbund. It received mixed responses, as YSL was the first couturier to present pants as a form of women’s evening wear. Many women who ventured wearing this bold look were denied entrance at restaurants and conferences. When New York socialite Nan Kempner was refused entry at restaurant Le Côte Basque in New York, she removed her pants, donning her blazer as a mini dress. Heralded as the epitome of the YSL woman, she received widespread praise, helping to popularize Le Smoking and challenging regulations against antiquated gendered dress codes. 

Throughout the 1970s, Le Smoking became an increasingly ubiquitous evening-wear staple, especially when actress Bianca Jagger adopted the look on her wedding day in 1971. Four years later, the look was shot by photographer Helmut Newton, personifying the power and modernity of the YSL image in a captivating editorial for Vogue Magazine. As Saint Laurent himself articulated, “For a woman, Le Smoking is an indispensable garment with which she finds herself continually in fashion, because it is about style, not fashion. Fashions come and go, but style is forever.”

While in the 1930s, actress Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrick dismissed the pantsuit as “mannish” and inappropriate, its widespread appeal in Hollywood trickled down into contemporary culture in the 1970s. It became a workwear staple in upper-middle class America. Many Italian and French ateliers, in particular, became renowned for their sophisticated, form-fitting, and professional attire. It was really in the 80s that the pantsuit became a lucrative garment category in the fashion industry; between 1980 and 1987, annual sales of women’s pantsuits rose by 60 million units. The 80s also catalyzed a wave of women pursuing higher education, and the pantsuit became a symbolic uniform for the movement. Designers such as Giorgio Armani popularized pantsuits with oversized lapels, sharp cuts, and broad shoulder pads, which blurred traditional gender roles and emulated power and authority. 

Hillary Clinton at North Carolina State University for the last campaign stop before election day on November 7, 2016. Photo credits: https://www.bustle.com/articles/194023-hillary-clinton-wrote-pantsuit-nation-a-heartfelt-thank-you-note-it-sets-the-tone-for-her

In 1993, Senators Babara Mikulski wore pants in the Senate in defiance of the rule forbidding women from wearing pants. Later that year, Sergeant-at-Arms Martha Pope amended the rule, allowing women to wear pants on the floor as long it was paired with a jacket; thus, the tradition of pantsuits in the political realm was born. In the 2016 Presidential election cycle, Hillary Clinton’s well-known pantsuit became a battle cry among her supporters, many of whom wore pantsuits to the polls in her support. After referring to her campaign team as “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits” at the Democratic National Convention, “Pantsuit Nation,” a Facebook group that was eventually composed of 2.9 million Clinton supporters, was formed. 

In the wake of the election, the pantsuit became a feminist rally cry, infiltrating both the runway and the mass market. It has come a long way since the groundbreaking invention of Le Smoking, when an androgynous uniform symbolizing power and authority was perceived as outrageous for women to wear. Reigning as one of the top trends these past three years, the pantsuit has become a powerful motif for women’s empowerment in both the workplace and on the runway.

Read more fashion articles at Clichemag.com
Photo credits: Tagwalk, InsiderW Magazine, Bustle

RBG’s 8 Most Historic Supreme Court Decisions & Dissents

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On September 18th, 2020, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away from pancreatic cancer at 87 years old. An early litigator for women’s rights and ardent champion of progressive causes, Ginsburg founded the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU and brought cases to the Supreme Court that consequently affirmed protections against gender discrimination. Her pronouncements of gender inequality and commitment to liberal jurisprudence continued throughout her trailblazing career. Appointed in 1993, Ginsburg spent 27 years on the bench as the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Reverently nicknamed “The Notorious RBG,” Ginsburg played a pivotal role in a number of Supreme Court rulings over the course of her tenure; as the high court grew increasingly conservative in her later years, she became especially recognized for her dissents, a driving force that shaped the lives of women, minorities, the LGBTQIA community, immigrants, and countless other Americans. As we mourn the loss of Justice Ginsburg and honor her legacy, here is a look at some of her most notable dissents and decisions.

 

Upon graduating from Cornell University in 1954, RBG went on to study law at Columbia University, where she later became the first female professor to be hired with tenure. During this time, she also served as a counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. Photo credits: https://www.cnn.com/2017/06/06/politics/gallery/ruth-bader-ginsburg/index.html

United States v. Virginia, 1996

In United States v. Virginia (1996), a landmark ruling for equal access to education, Justice Ginsburg’s majority decision struck down the Virginia Military Institute’s male-only admissions policy. Earlier in the year, the United States had sued the Institute the last publicly-funded all-male university in the country for its gender-based discrimination. When the case reached the Supreme Court, Virginia contested that women were not equipped to attend VMI and that a separate women’s-only military program at Mary Baldwin University would suffice. A 7-1 ruling determined that Virginia’s gender-based discrimination violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, with Ginsburg writing that “generalizations about ‘the way women are,’ estimates of what is appropriate for most women, no longer justify denying opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description.”

 

Olmstead v. LC, 1999

In 1999, Olmstead v. LC ruled 6-3 that people with mental disabilities had the right to live in community-based housing under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Supreme Court voted in favor of Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson two women who were held in isolation at the psychiatric unit of a state-run hospital arguing that Georgia had violated the ADA’s integration mandate. Justice Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion, asserting that the “unjustified isolation” of Curt and Wilson “reflects two evident judgments. First, institutional placement of persons who can handle and benefit from community settings perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life…. Second, confinement in an institution severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment.”

Bush v. Gore, 2000

In Bush v. Gore, one of the most controversial and notable dissents of her tenure, Ginsburg dissented the court’s abrupt 5-4 decision to halt a manual recount of Florida’s ballots. Following the highly contentious race in Florida during the 2000 election cycle, George W. Bush’s campaign requested to suspend a vote recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court. Ginsburg criticized the court’s violation of judicial restraintnamely, respecting the mandates of state Supreme Courts and apparent bias towards Bush. As she famously wrote, “The Court assumes that time will not permit ‘orderly judicial review of any disputed matters that might arise.’ But no one has doubted the good faith and diligence with which Florida election officials, attorneys for all sides of this controversy, and the courts of law have performed their duties. Notably, the Florida Supreme Court has produced two substantial opinions within 29 hours of oral argument. In sum, the Court’s conclusion that a constitutionally adequate recount is impractical is a prophecy the Court’s own judgment will not allow to be tested. Such an untested prophecy should not decide the Presidency of the United States. I dissent.”

Grutter v. Bollinger, 2003

President Jimmy Carter nominated RBG to serve as a judge for the US Court of Appeals’ District of Columbia Circuit in 1980. Photo credits: https://www.cnn.com/2017/06/06/politics/gallery/ruth-bader-ginsburg/index.html

In this landmark ruling regarding affirmative action, the Supreme Court contended that race should be considered as a factor in college admissions. The case arose when Barbara Grutter, who applied to Michigan Law School and was allegedly denied admissions due to the admission office’s preference for other racial groups.  The university admitted to favoring certain minority races when making admissions decisions because it serves a “compelling interest in achieving diversity among its student body.” The court voted 5-4 that racial diversity is a valid reason for permitting affirmative action. Ginsburg wrote a long-term forecast, writing, “From today’s vantage point, one may hope, but not firmly forecast, that over the next generation’s span, progress toward nondiscrimination and genuinely equal opportunity will make it safe to sunset affirmative action.”

Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 2007

In 2007, Ginsburg dissented the court’s 5-4 ruling that denied Lilly Ledbetter’s right to sue Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company for unequal pay due to the amount of time that had passed since the violation. After 19 years of employment, Ledbetter had sued the company after discovering that she was paid less than her male counterparts. She argued that it was a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but the company countered that discrimination-based charges had to be filed within 180 days following the violation. When the Supreme Court voted in favor of Goodyear, Ginsburg argued Ledbetter had not known about her unequal pay earlier. She galvanized public attention towards the gender pay gap by publicly reading about the case on the bench and pressing Congress to amend the clause. As she wrote, “Our precedent suggests, and lower courts have overwhelmingly held, that the unlawful practice is the current payment of salaries infected by gender-based (or race-based) discrimination – a practice that occurs whenever a paycheck delivers less to a woman than to a similarly situated man.”

Gonzales v. Carhart, 2007

In Gonzales v. Carhart, one of the most significant rulings on reproductive justice since Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold Congress’ Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Though opponents of the ban asserted that the procedure was the safest way to end a late-term pregnancy, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority that “Respondents have not demonstrated that the Act, as a facial matter, is void for vagueness, or that it imposes an undue burden on a woman’s right to abortion based on its overbreadth or lack of a health exception.” Ginsburg, who was the only woman on the court, responded that “the Act, and the Court’s defense of it, cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this Court — and with increasing comprehension of its centrality to women’s lives.” Though uncommon at the time, she stood up to read her dissent, adding that “The court deprives women of the right to make an autonomous choice, even at the expense of their safety. This way of thinking reflects ancient notions about women’s place in the family and under the Constitution — ideas that have long since been discredited.”

Shelby County v. Holder, 2013

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed RBG to the US Supreme Court. Photo credits: https://www.cnn.com/2017/06/06/politics/gallery/ruth-bader-ginsburg/index.html

In 2013, the Supreme Court nullified a central provision of the Voting Rights Act with a 5-4 vote, freeing nine predominantly Southern states to revise voting requirements without preclearance. Shelby County, Alabama had challenged Section 4B of the historic legislation, which prohibited discriminatory practices in voting at the state level. Claimed that the antiquated restrictions violated state rights, the court agreed and struck down the provision as unconstitutional. In a scathing dissent, Ginsburg wrote that “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes… is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

 

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

In 2012, Ginsburg dissented the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that for-profit companies should not be required to pay for insurance coverage of contraception. Hobby Lobby Stores, a family-owned arts and crafts chain that had organized its business around Biblical principles, claimed that being required to pay for employees’ access to contraception violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. When the court rejected the contraceptive mandate under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Ginsburg wrote that Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults.” Additionally, she noted the cost barrier of birth control for many women, writing that “the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.” 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

RBG in her infamous “dissent collar,” which has become a pervasive feminist motif and source of style inspiration in pop culture today. Photo credits: https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/2016-election-day/justice-ginsburg-wears-dissent-collar-following-contentious-election-n681571

As we look back upon a mere handful of Ginsburg’s pivotal contributions to modern-day feminism and human rights, her legacy lives on in countless ways, from equal access to education and protection against workplace discrimination to access to contraception and reproductive justice. Though her career was riddled with adversity, Ginsburg persevered, fighting time after time for social progress with tenacity, grit, and bravery. A pioneer of gender equality, a ceaseless driving force for change, and, most recently, a pop culture icon, her lifelong battle for equality among all Americans paved the way for the paths countless citizens live today.

Read more articles at Clichemag.com
Photo credits: NBC , NYT, CNN

Desertion of the Feminine: How Rudi Gernreich Reshaped 1960s Womenswear

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Peggy Moffitt in Gernreich’s Monokini, WWD, 1964. Photo credits: https://wwd.com/fashion-news/fashion-scoops/peggy-moffitt-venturing-into-licensing-1203226028/

When readers flipped through their issues of ​Women’s Wear Daily​ on June 3, 1964, they were shocked to find images of model Peggy Moffitt in a topless swimsuit. Austrian-American anti-establishment designer Rudi Gernreich had designed this waist-high bikini bottom with suspenders running between Moffitt’s breasts. Avant-garde and controversial, this “monokini” galvanized public opinion. It received an enormous amount of press coverage, which contributed to the acceptance of his more “modest” designs such as tank dresses, mini skirts, and the bikini. ​Only three thousand suits were sold, as few dared to wear it. Nonetheless, Gernreich’s design catalyzed the 1960s cultural shift toward new forms of sexual expression.

Born in 1922, Austrian designer Rudi Gernreich immigrated to the United States in 1938 to escape anti-Semitic violence. A talented artist, dancer, and performer, he spent his first few years in Los Angeles as a costume designer and dancer for Lester Horton Modern Dance Troupe, whose performances revolved around racial justice and anti-fascist activism.

Duotard by Gernreich for Lewitsky Dance Co. in 1976. Photo credits: https://www.latimes.com/fashion/la-ig-rudi-gernreich-exhibition-skirball-fashion-exhibit-20190517-story.html

Gernreich’s early designs in the US were already imbued with political undertones, as Gernreich subverted heteronormative expectations of dress through gender non-conforming silhouettes.

Throughout the 1940s, he designed for various swimwear manufacturers and collaborated with LA and New York-based designers on knitwear micro-collections; they featured interchangeable sets, such as a matching tube top and mini skirt. Allowing wearers to mix and match their garments, Gernreich’s sets brought a sense of lighthearted fun, as well as versatility, to women’s wardrobes. 

In 1950, he befriended American activist Harry Hay, who was a member of the California communist party and an activist union organizer. Together, they co-founded the Mattachine Society, one of the first organizations dedicated to lobbying for queer rights. His passion for non-heteronormative and iconoclast expression became an increasingly frequent theme in his work.

Moffitt in Gernreich’s Signature Stockings. Photo credits: http://silverscreenmodes.com/60s-a-go-go/60speggymoffittrudigernreich2/

In 1960, after gaining national notoriety for his avant-garde knitwear, he founded his eponymous LLC., Rudi Gernreich Inc. Gernreich believed fashion could promote sexual equality, and the central goal of his brand was to free women from the bonds of traditional, patriarchal fashion. He sought to challenge binding fashions that concealed women’s natural curves. For instance, he fused sportswear and designer by creating tube dresses out of tech jersey and printing nylon in bold colors and patterns for tights. By utilizing synthetic sportswear materials for Ready-to-Wear designs, he offered women the opportunity to wear form-fitting and often provocative apparel outside of the athletic sphere. As his business grew, his staple designs included transparent tops, mini skirts, nylon tube dresses, invisible undergarments, the thong, and most notoriously, the monokini. Though initially perceived as a joke at women’s expense, the monokini offered women an unprecedented form of sexual empowerment. 

In her 1965 report on the monokini, Gloria Steinem named him “the

Gernreich with model Peggy Moffitt. Source: https://www.latimes.com/fashion/la-ig-rudi-gernreich-exhibition-skirball-fashion-exhibit-20190517-story.html

American designer responsible for the desertion of the feminine.” Especially in the post-war era, Gernreich’s designs were entirely unprecedented in their audacity, sexual appeal, and purpose. Though many of his designs did not become pervasive on the market until the Sexual Revolution in the 1970s, his head-turning work initiated the womenswear industry’s transition from concealing to revealing. His designs were politically charged statements just as much as they were novel in aestheticas he subverted heteronormative double standards of dress and facilitated societal acceptance of sexually-empowering womenswear. 

Read more fashion articles at Clichemag.com
Photo credits: WWD, LA Times, and Silver Screen Modes. 

Actress Christine Lahti Discusses Her #MeToo Moment Early in Her Career

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Christine Lahti, best known for her role as Kate Austin on Chicago Hope, which earned her an Emmy Award and Golden Globe, appeared as a guest on the Wendy Williams Show on Thursday to promote her most recent project. She portrays powerful feminist, Gloria Steinem, on the off-Broadway play about her life and career called Gloria: A Life.

In light of the #MeToo and Times Up movements, Wendy asked Lahti if she ever experienced “the casting couch”.

Lahti, who was 25 at the time, and living in New York, was looking to book a gig for two commercials, despite previously declaring that she would not take on any commercials.  She was tired of waitressing and really had to pay her rent.

The casting director, according to Lahti, told her that she may be right for the commercials, but wanted to take a few pictures of her first. He then proceeded to ask her to pull her shirt down off the shoulder. Initially, she felt it was a bizarre request but ultimately decided to honor it. She emphasized that this was all that happened.

Lahti then said that the next day, this same casting director called and asked her to return to his office so they can discuss what had occurred the previous day. When she went back into his office, he informed her that she had booked the commercials.

Lahti thought this was odd because she did not actually audition. Instead, all she did was allow him to take the pictures. He told her that the directors of the commercials “really think you’re the right person for these commercials. All you have to do is sleep with them.”

The “casting couch” is a term that originated in the motion picture industry to describe the sexual activity between casting directors or producers and aspiring actors looking to secure a role. The term has since expanded to include any industry where employers or individuals in positions of power demand sexual favors from employees or subordinates in return for entry into the occupation, or for other career advancements.

“I burst out crying”, said Lahti. “He said to me: ‘because you’re not that pretty, you’re not special, you have no connections in Hollywood or in show business, the only way you’ll ever make it is if you sleep your way to the top.” She informed everybody she knew about the situation.

Nonetheless, she goes on to say that she did not report the casting director to his superiors out of fear. “I thought I wouldn’t be believed. I thought my voice wasn’t strong enough then.”

Lahti then shared that the experience allowed her to become a stronger woman.

“I left crying, and I walked 72 blocks to my apartment in the village, sobbing. But that was the walk where I became a feminist in my bones.”

For what it’s worth, Lahti did eventually Google the casting director. However, she did not obtain any information on his whereabouts. She hopes that he is no longer around to prey on young and aspiring actresses.

Gloria: A Life is playing at the Daryl Roth Theatre until January 27, 2019.

 

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Featured Image credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC. 

Aidan Alexander Talks YouTube, Feminism, and New Roles

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In the world we live in today, to quote Heidi Klum, “One day you’re in, and the next day, you’re out.” Granted, she’s talking about the fashion world, but this holds true with anything that goes “viral” on the Internet. However, this truth is anything but for actor Aidan Alexander. Sixteen-year-old Alexander is one of many examples that explain why the Internet is a fascinating place. Since starring in his own YouTube channel under the username Maadraad two years ago, he’s moved from the small screen onto the silver screen in just a few short years. With over 200K supporters on his side, there’s no saying goodbye to this star in the making. #TeamInternet for the win.

Cliché: You’ve grown such a huge following over the last few years and it’s amazing. Growing up, what did you envision your life to be like?
Aidan Alexander: I always envisioned I’d be happy doing whatever it might be that I wanted to do. I hoped that happiness would be my acting and making art, and I’m very thankful that it’s happening.
Do you sometimes feel pressure to be a huge influence to those who have followed you since day one?
I’m pretty chill with my followers! There definitely isn’t too much pressure. I do get nervous and excited posting new things because I’m not always sure of the reaction I’ll get.
When you were just starting out up until now, how did you deal with the unavoidable negative comments trolls love to leave on your videos? What would be your advice to someone who is scared to even start a YouTube channel because of the possibility that negative comments may trickle in out of nowhere?
You have to develop a thick skin. Remember that if you choose to start a YouTube channel, the positives often outweigh the negatives and adversity only makes you stronger. 
Do you recall the exact moment where you realized that you began getting noticed by people?
I first noticed when I was close to 13. I was leaving a concert, totally naive to the crowd of girls that had started following. I turned around and was so shocked. It was really cute. I love them.
You’re now involved in more acting roles. Is there a huge difference or difficulty when playing yourself on your personal channel versus getting into character for a different role?
I have always been acting, even before I started my channel. When I’m on my channel, everything I say is organically me. In a movie or on TV, the words are written for me, and then I delve deeper into the character and make it authentically me.

I hoped that happiness would be my acting and making art, and I’m very thankful that it’s happening.

You recently finished wrapping up your first lead movie role in Vikes. Can you tell us about your character and what we can expect from the film?
Vikes was so fun! I play a high school student named Thorvald who organizes a big protest to change the name of the school mascot, all to impress a girl. Thorvald is naive and innocent, but totally hilarious. I can’t wait for everyone to see it.
You also just wrapped production for F*&% the Prom, which is slated to be released in 2017. You are on a roll! Where do you hope to see your acting career go in two to three years from now?
Thank you! I love getting scripts and being introduced to new characters. I fall in love with every role I play. They’re all so real. My hope is that I can continue to bring new roles to life.
You’re a strong advocate for Feminism, and I feel as if more and more younger generations have a stronger sense of what it means to be a Feminist. For you, how did the idea of Feminism enter your life?
Feminism has always been a part of my life. I have always agreed with the notion that girls and boys are equal. As I got older and realized some people didn’t feel that way, I knew I had to use my platform to speak out.
What is your definition of the word since there seems to be so many disputes of what it means to be a Feminist, whether it be positive or negative?
Many people assign an angry narrative to Feminists or assume Feminists are out to prove women’s superiority. To me, Feminism is the notion that women and men are equals and should be treated equally.
What words of advice would you give to someone who wants to follow your career path?
Do it. Please! It’s such an amazing way to express yourself. Even if you have the slightest urge, try it. Then, if you like it, keep at it. Success rarely happens overnight, but nothing worth having comes easily.
Read more Celebrity Interviews at Clichemag.com
Photographed by Ed McGowan